If you think that communication in marketing is restricted to only the printed words and designs, then you’re forgetting a crucial form of communication—body language. Or to be precise, the “body” of the marketing material itself. The same way that people communicate with one another using verbal and non-verbal language, the shape of your marketing materials can say just as much about your brand as the design that appears on it. Shape is power and universal, transcending language by directly engaging your audience’s tactile sense.
The easiest way to control this message is through the use of custom die-cutting. Die-cut designs change the shape of your marketing materials, which allows you to change the way the audience perceives your brand. However, before you can choose the right die-cut, you have to know how your audience will react to that shape and interpret your brand identity.
1. Standard Template
Businesses that use a standard template for their marketing materials can be thought of as classic, traditional or conservative, which is not necessarily a bad image to project if those terms sum up your brand.
However, standard templates can often be thought of as limiting or boring. There is only so much you can do to a standard template to make it stand out in a crowd of similarly shaped designs. It is the vanilla ice-cream of the print marketing world.
Standard templates can also carry the negative connotation of being amateur. It’s easy for small business owners to circumvent hiring a professional designer by instead plugging a simple design into a standard template. An amateur design makes your small brand look undeveloped and uncertain instead of fresh and exciting.
2. Geometric Shapes
Geometric die-cut shapes are those that can be precisely measured, such as a circle, a triangle or even more complex shapes like a star. Even die-cuts that are created from combining shapes, such as a house formed by a rectangle and triangle, would be considered a geometric shape.
Die-cuts with a geometric shape tell your audience that your brand has a willingness to explore, but that you don’t stray far from tradition. Geometric shapes are recognizable to audiences, so they portray your brand as a familiar, trustworthy old friend. The dual combination of creativity and professionalism that this type of cut brings to your design can be a boom for nearly any brand.
Many printers will already have die cut plates for various geometric shapes, so this is a more affordable option than completely custom die cuts. Showing restraint on how much you spend on marketing materials can have a positive effect on your audience’s perception of your brand; they will see your brand as mature and stable instead of impulsive.
3. Logo Shape
When you cut around the shape of your logo or make cuts that deliberately highlight it, you are sending a strong message to the audience—“my brand is important.” Die cuts tend to give the logo more weight than the rest of the design, which promotes your company as being very brand centric. That’s not to say that your brand is egotistical or narcissistic, but rather that you observe and celebrate all that which makes your brand unique.
Since die-cut logos can be touched and interacted with, they create a stronger sense memory than a printed logo. This allows your audience to make a better connection to your brand, making you seem personable and outgoing.
A die-cut logo shows that your brand has a strong identity. Even if recipients of your printed materials have never heard of your brand before, emphasizing your logo projects a sense of importance; the audience will feel like they should know your brand.
4. Product Shape
When you create cuts that emphasize or highlight the shape of your product, you tell the audience that you value your brand’s accomplishments more than the identity of the brand itself. For brands that sell more than one type of product, using these types of cuts allows each of your products to stand on its own instead of being swept up into a collective brand identity.
Cuts in the shape of a product also have a level of interaction, which creates a stronger connection between your product and the target audience. The audience is given the feeling that they’ve already had a “hands-on” experience with your brand. Thus, they are more likely to cross that threshold and try out what your brand has to offer.
Product-based die-cuts tell audiences that your brand values results and that you let your products speak for themselves. This establishes a level of trust between you and the audience, especially those who may have doubts about your product; it makes a bold statement about your trustworthiness and reliability.
5. Value-Inspired Shape
Some recognizable die-cut shapes may be tied less to your brand or product and more into what your brand values or represents. For example, an eco-friendly brand may use tree- or leaf-shaped marketing materials to signify their commitment to green business practices. These types of cuts tell your audience that your brand is message-centric and invites them to participate in the promotion of that message.
Brands that use die cuts with value-inspired shapes are often associated with having strong principles and sticking up for what they believe in. Sometimes that belief is simple and concrete, such as a belief that your product represents a great value. Other times that belief may be more abstract, such as the belief that your brand can bring positivity to the world.
There is a strong correlation between value-inspired die cuts and brands that are considered socially responsible. Many consumers choose to make their purchases based on their morals and beliefs, so signifying that your brand shares those beliefs will help you make a stronger connection.
Unlike geometric shapes, which can be precisely measured, abstract shapes are organic in nature and do not conform to preset measurements or values. An abstract shape might be created intentionally or it may form naturally by cutting around a design element. Either way, the result is a shape that ties directly into the design to the point where it cannot be separated from that design and still be fully understood.
Brands that use abstract designs for their die cuts are thought to be creative and unique, valuing expression and clever ideas as part of their brand identity. Depending on the nature of the shape itself, abstract die-cuts can be viewed as anything from professional and reserved to playful and wild. The identity you create with an abstract cut will often be left to the interpretation of the audience.
Abstract cuts present an image of non-conformity. They tell the audience that your brand cannot be contained by a standard or even geometric template, that your brand’s personality is “too big” to be displayed in conventional ways. It shows a willingness to be flexible and think outside of the box.
The die-cut shapes you choose for your printed marketing materials may say a lot about your brand, but they don’t necessarily have to define it. You can utilize these techniques in exciting and creative ways to tell the story of your brand the way that you want.
A geometric shape can be playful and professional at the same time. An abstract shape can be both creative and conservative. In the end, it is up to you to decide how your brand is perceived by the audience.